TORONTO: In recent weeks, some of Canada's major media companies—CanWest Global Communications, CTVglobemedia, and Rogers Media—have all made significant staffing cuts. Porter Novelli Canada's VP and regional director Mark Nusca—a former journalist with The Globe and Mail and National Post—spoke to PRWeek about the challenges that PR pros and their clients face in a retracting and evolving media environment.
What is the impact of the media cuts?
It makes our work more difficult, in that we are dealing in many cases with fewer traditional outlets and fewer people, each of whom are being asked to do more and more with fewer and fewer resources. Everyone is under pressure, and we need to adapt to get our messages heard. We need to ensure that what we are saying increasingly has meaning in the real world for reporters and will resonate with their respective audiences. In times like this we are seeing the playing field we are on shrinking in terms of the space we are all clamouring for a piece of as PR people.
This week, Rogers Media said despite its layoffs, it will be hiring new talent, likely to help with the company's online efforts. Do clients hold online coverage in the same regard as print—and how do PR execs navigate those two channels in terms of coverage for their clients?
Print is still seen by most as the ‘holy grail' of coverage. A client is never more pleased than when you can tell them we made page three of the Toronto Star, or the front page of the Globe's Report on Business section, and so on. But increasingly, online media are being brought into the mix as we set goals and measure results, particularly for larger clients that are perhaps a bit more advanced in terms of their communications approach. We absolutely need to treat new and emerging online channels as mainstream, not as marginal or secondary channels to reach audiences. The Web has incredible reach and potential, and traditional media are dedicating resources to online technology as those audiences continue to grow. The days of viewing print and broadcast as top-tier and online media as secondary are long gone.
How can PR pros manage client expectations?
I think it is important to always be realistic and to make sure clients understand what the media landscape looks like today…With the recent federal election coming at the very same time that the markets and economy was taking a severe downturn this fall, we saw one or two weeks that posed a serious challenge to those of us trying to get releases picked up and covered by media. The news coverage was wall-to-wall politics and economics. We can try to alter our timing when the option to do so is there, but there are times when the news agenda simply pushes our clients' messages to the sidelines. I always encourage an honest and open dialogue with clients in cases like that, but it is also important to constantly be aware of the context we are working in and to anticipate what is happening to affect coverage of what we are trying to do with clients.